Connecting to Customers

Grow Your Business By Becoming an Inbound Organization

Is your business more or less competitive in 2017? Hah! Welcome to 2017. Is that even a question? If Amazon, Google or Facebook isn’t directly competing with you, just wait a few more months. We thought so.

The question is, how do you create a competitive advantage to hold onto your current customers and scale new customers in a predictable manner? Actually, the answer isn’t hard to find, but it is hard to achieve. What many companies need is a streamlined way to build relationships.

The reality is: in the age of lots of competition, it is more about HOW YOU ENGAGE your target buyer than how you CLOSE them.

Many companies think they can adopt a tactic like content marketing or social media, or buy an ad or list and immediately reverse sluggish sales or lagging market adoption. And they can. But don’t participate in those activities and expect any meaningful change. Adopting a few new digital tactics for your marketing and sales efforts will not help you match the changes in buyer behavior that are the root cause of the problem.

The reason this piecemeal approach fails is that it doesn’t address the fundamental problem – buyers and the buying process have changed considerably. They are constantly evolving. So not only must marketing and selling change, but entire organizations must adapt.

Help Everyone Attitude – What Inbound Organizations Do

In a high-supply, high-competition world with flat demand for many products and services, you better be the most helpful option in your market. Companies that take a proactive approach to solving people’s problems shine. A helping company does not wait for someone to call and then ask them ‘what do you want?’

A helping company figures out the issues people have and figures out how to solve them using their products, services, and support. A recent study showed that 74% of sales go to the first company that was helpful.

We just had an A/C unit die, so I asked some friends for a recommendation of a good company to talk to about a new one. I took the best referral and gave them call. This small business owner gave me four options, and also supplied content that answered all of my questions about them. He also sent links to the power company where I could get a rebate if I upgraded to a more efficient unit. He also showed me how the unit we had was not draining properly, and used a video to show me how he would fix it. He then added in a UV light to kill any organic stuff that would get in the ducts, afterwards directing me to an article talking about why this was important, at no charge!

Do you think I even considered asking anyone for a second quote? There was no reason to check anyplace else. The owner hit all my buttons. He started with being knowledgeable, then he listened, then he demonstrated competency, then he HELPED me, then I bought. I could have gone to Amazon (yes they have A/C units on Amazon) but it wouldn’t be worth it.

Our interaction was win (he made his company, even his entire profession looks good) – win (he made the referrer look good) – win (I was super happy) – win (he was happy to have gained a lifelong customer) – win (the world now has one more efficient A/C unit).

People 1st Mindset – How Inbound Organizations Think

People first is more than a cliché, and it is super hard to implement at scale. Understanding that the organization must constantly change, and then supporting the team with people who can make smart decisions on their own, requires a process where you attract and train the right type of people. Smart organizations realize that they must put people first. Buyers are not prey for the hunter. They are people that are overworked, busy, stuck in their smart phones, doing more with less in a downsized and outsourced world, and you need their consent to market to them. And you better be all about them, and not your features and products.

Do not target marketing to them by thinking they care about outdated demographic segmentation. Target the social-media connected communities that share the common problems you best solve, which they are waiting anxiously for you to solve.

In an age of tough competition, a broad-based marketing “shotgun” approach does not address the problems people have. Putting people first aligns you with their outcomes and their results.

Online Engagement Drives the Buyer Journey – How Inbound Organizations Get Found

93% of all B2B purchases start with an Internet search.

84% of all buyers engage in online information consumption and education.

This idea should not be shocking. Can the right people find you when they are looking for answers online? And if they do find you, what do they see? Perhaps a catalog of products or answers to their questions? Marketing fluff content? Or do they find answers to questions about pricing, competition, comparisons, ratings, reviews, how-to’s, what-to-do’s, and ROI calculations?

If you are not building an online portal centered on your website you are missing the most-active, lowest-cost, highest-return marketing going. Your online presence allows you to build a conversation, drive engagement, and meet people where they want to be met, with the answers they want to find.

Once again, this isn’t controversial as a stand-alone fact. Everyone wants a good website. But making your website the best salesperson in your company and putting time, effort, and money and making your digital strategy the foundation of your SMarketing is not insignificant, but it is the only way to scale.

Differentiation by Customer Experience – How Inbound Organizations Innovate

A help everyone attitude with a people first mindset enabled by online engagement allows companies to deliver a truly outstanding customer experience and create lasting differentiation through marketing innovation. Customer success is driven by the alignment of all customer-facing people with the helping strategy. Everyone must buy in.

And one bad experience for the customer ruins it for the entire organization when people buy your products and services at Internet speed. Create an experience that puts them at the center. Self-service is good service. Let the customer choose the pace and the process. Your job is to give them the right info at the right time, and help them manage the convoluted buying journey they are on.

In the past, an extraordinary customer experience was only for those that bought luxury items or went to the best places. People now expect this level of experience in everything. Part of this is driven by increased competition, part of this is driven by our short attention span (probably driven by our phones). Part of this is driven by the technology that provides an easy way to deliver a better solution.

Your Biggest Risk

Understanding the underlying PACE of change in the 21st century creates a challenge for business leaders. In the old days (1990’s), trying new technologies was frequently viewed as a risk. Today, standing pat is your biggest threat. Your competition pales in comparison to the threat of completely missing your audience, losing the opportunity to help, and delaying your entry into the new world. Are they moving, changing, asking new questions, searching in new places, looking for new answers, and you don’t even know it? Probably. Will that change this year? Most definitely. Will you be prepared? It depends.

I would challenge you to ask these two questions:

Is your industry more competitive over last 5 years, and do you think that will fundamentally change over the next 5 years?

Are Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, or another disrupter looking to enter your industry? And if the answer to this question right now is no, then the next question is – when will they be?

You may have heard of Inbound Marketing and maybe even Inbound Sales, but to succeed today and beyond, becoming an Inbound Organization will set you apart in the eyes that matter the most; the person that needs your help and will be buying from you.

In the next installment of the Inbound Organization, we will discuss the steps you can take to make your website an online portal for actively helping your target audience.

Todd Hockenberry is the owner of Top Line Results, a marketing and sales consulting company specializing in helping companies answer the question “How do we grow our business in an age of changing buyer behavior, digital disruption, and tough competition”.

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